Stella San Jac started offering brunch service January 1st. A delicious way to bring in the year! Last week I tasted their new brunch menu with some of my favorite food bloggers and instagramers. It’s always such a pleasure being around likeminded people and indulging in delicious conversation while noshing tasty bites.
We started off with Stella San Jac’s fresh pressed juices. I’m not as health conscious as I should be and haven’t caught on to juices but as I write this I’m craving their Acai, pomegranate and coconut juice. I would guzzle it down if it would just materialize in front of me.
If you’re not interested in their juice menu, they have a wide variety of brunch cocktails. That’s a Blueberry Snowcone front and center and the Stellamosa in the flute.
If you step foot into Stella San Jac for lunch, dinner or brunch and are not vegetarians, you must order deviled eggs and biscuits for the table. I don’t issues a lot of mandates so trust me on this. I’ve been to Stella San Jac’s before and intermittently crave both the deviled eggs and the biscuits. Not surprising since the deviled eggs have Andouille sausage in them and the biscuits are finished off with a slathering of bacon fat.
Of all the brunch items we shared, my three recommendations are the avocado toast, the shrimp and grits, and last and my favorite, the chicken fried steak with over easy eggs and hash brown waffles.
Just as I thought I couldn’t eat another bite, Stella San Jac treated us to their bacon churros and chocolate mousse. I mean, talk about finishing strong.
Full Disclosure: Gourmet by Numbers approached me to try their service and offer a giveaway. I was not monetarily compensated for this post.
I’ve dabbled in meal delivery services before where portioned and uncooked ingredients of recipes were shipped to me. What I like about Gourmet by Numbers is that they do not ship nationally but deliver locally in Austin. I love supporting local businesses. Gourmet by Numbers offer weekly subscriptions as well as the option to buy individual meals when desired. I chose the Shrimp Pad Thai from their expansive menu to make for Sugarface and me on a Friday night spent in.
My meal kit arrived in an adorable cooler pouch. The kit should be good for up to 3 hours before having to be put in the kitchen in case you’re not home when it arrives.
The best part about meal delivery services is how much time it saves from general cutting and prepping. It took me less than thirty minutes to get dinner on the table. My favorite part of cooking is the actual cooking so it was such a treat when I could throw on the garnish without having to rinse and cut. No shrimp peeling and deveining were necessary. I didn’t have to break out my cutting board! The only glitch was that the noodles were a tad overabundant for the amount of sauce in this particular recipe. That was easily fixed by throwing in some sauces I already had in my pantry.
It was such a lovely Friday night evening in with Sugarface watching Nurse Jackie and couldn’t have done it without Gourmet by Numbers!
Gourmet by Numbers would be great for those who live in Austin and don’t have time to grocery shop and still want to have home-cooked meals. So if you’re in Austin and would like a chance to win a meal from Gourmet by Numbers, check out my giveaway!
This givesaway is open to anyone in Austin, Texas. Please check if you are within Gourmet by Numbers’ delivery zone. Keep in mind, they do have an option to pick up too! Do any of the following to earn entries. Each task will earn you a separate entry. Please leave a comment to tell me which ones you’ve done. Please also use your real email address. I promise I won’t spam you. This is so I can contact you if you win. Giveaway closes 5pm CST on Friday, Feburary 5th. I’ll announce and contact the winner soon after. Good luck!
The first monthly happy hour of 2016 with Austin Food Bloggers Alliance happened last week. We started the year with a bang at Banger’s Sausage House and Beer Garden. Chef Ted Prater and owner Ben Seigel offered up their time and space and hosted an educational and delicious evening. The happy hour started with Chef Ted and Ben demonstrating how pickles and sausages were made. Then they threw the sausages on the open fire grill and showcased some of their signature sides (hello Poutine and fried cheese curds!). We ended the evening eating and chatting under the night sky.
I’ve been to Banger’s many times but it has been some time since I’ve been. It’s the perfect place to convene with friends when you want an easy, relaxed place that caters to all, dogs and vegetarians too. (They have a fenced mini dog park in their patio area!) I hate to admit that I had started to take Banger’s for granted. Isn’t it human nature to take for granted the ever reliable people and things in your life? We forget to appreciate all that they offer. I was humbly reminded what all Banger’s has to offer to Austin after listening to Chef Ted talk about making sausage. He is so passionate about his craft; it was palpable in his energy.
It’s hard to pick a highlight of the evening but if I had to, it would be when Chef Ted let me stand by him and get my (gloved) hands dirty. I tried my hand at twisting sausage links, putting the slippery casing on the machine, and cranking out sausage. I was delighted!
Another way to remedy taking things for granted is to see it more curiously and experience it from different perspectives. And that’s exactly what my evening with AFBA and Banger’s did. I got to hear two voices behind the establishment express their love for their work. I saw my fellow food writers engrossed and then happily tucking into sausages. I tried two items I never tried before there and can’t wait to go back and order them again. The fried chicken sausage when I’m feeling naughty and the vegetarian BLT sausage when I’m feeling virtuous.
I left with a renewed appreciation for Banger’s and a resolution to come back more often.
The photo of me and Chef Ted is credited to fellow AFBA board member and friend, South Austin Foodie.
My favorite burger has been my favorite burger for years now. I had been to Hopdoddy when it first opened a few years ago and sampled 8 of their burgers. By the time I got to my personal 8th, I was so infatuated with it, I never ordered anything else at subsequent visits. The Prime Time burger just has so many of my favorite things. Brie, caramelized onions, truffle oil, arugula. All of that with an American Kobe patty cooked medium rare. When I’m feeling extra naughty, I add a fried egg. And since I don’t go to Hopdoddy often, when I do I also get an order of fries and my favorite milkshake, the Nutella with chocolate covered pretzel milkshake. My idea of making the meal healthy is to split the shake and the fries!
Which is exactly what I did yesterday when I went to a media tasting at their new Round Rock, Texas location. It was their first day open and I was told their line was out the door all day as it was when I got there for a late lunch. This doesn’t surprise me at all. Everyone in line seemed happy too. I’m betting it’s not their first Hopdoddy burger they’re waiting in line for. How else would you explain their excited smiles?
A few weeks ago, I dined at the newly opened Prelog’s European Restaurant and Bar as a media invitee from Taster’s Table Club, a dinner club service that recently launched in Austin. For a membership fee, Taster’s Table Club gives members a selection of participating restaurants each month to choose to dine at with other members. These monthly dinners occur on the third Tuesday of every month. Each restaurant will seat up to 12 diners from the collective together, making the monthly dinner not only a culinary event but also a networking and socializing event!
Dining with Taster’s Table Club at Prelog’s was such a great dinner experience. I walked in not knowing anyone at my table and walked away feeling endeared to my table-mates and also to the chef and staff of Prelog’s. The night felt harmoniously orchestrated from the food and service to the fun dinner banter.
The banter was facilitated by cocktails made with Dripping Springs Vodka. The cocktail helped turn strangers into friends.
We started with two appetizers. Chicken liver pâté and brussels sprouts. So I’m curious, how do you feel about pâté? I find people generally either love or hate it. I myself love it. I grew up with it being slathered in Vietnamese sandwiches.
Pictured above and below is the gorgeous Sweet Potato Soup. Get a load of that presentation! Throughout the whole meal, I felt like I was experiencing fine art. There were bits of grapefruit, prawn, and coconut in the soup. If I had to pick a favorite from the night, it would be this soup.
Prelog’s fish and chips might be my favorite fish and chips I’ve ever had and I’ve had it many times in London! Hidden underneath is a peas and vinegar remoulade sauce that went very well with the flaky goodness of the fish.
The dining table conversation fell into a hush when we tucked into the short ribs over polenta root vegetables and under brown butter foam. The hush was punctuated with seconds of happy sighs and murmurs from my eating partners. If I wasn’t too busy having a personal moment of pleasure, I would have been tickled by the sight of us.
Of course the apple tart is served on an palette like plate because it was truly a work of art. And apologies for driving the pun further, but it was not only pleasing to the eye but also to the palate.
In short, Prelog’s takes great care of not just the diners in terms of service but also in the quality of their ingredients and execution of their dishes. I felt like I was feasting with both my taste-buds and my eyes. Thank you Taster’s Table Club for making it possible for me to try the newly opened Prelog’s!
Questions: Have you been to Prelog’s? What did you order? How do you feel about pâté?
Last month I was invited to a media tasting at the Driskill Grill, located in the Driskill Hotel. We started the evening by mingling with some of their marketing representatives, other food writers, and with Chef Troy Knapp in his office. His private space is a hidden alcove like office accessed through the kitchen. It almost feel like a cave office! There we talked about the renovations recently done and some of the history of the famed and alleged to be haunted hotel.
After the cocktail reception, we moved to the restaurant. I’ve been to the Driskill for events and have had drinks and snacks at their hotel bar but did not realize tucked in the back of the hotel bar area is the fine dining restaurant, Driskill Grill. I love the warm inviting space of the restaurant and noted there were a few private dining areas sectioned off by velvet curtains.
I sat near Ryann, one of the Driskill’s PR reps and was so enchanted by her knowledge of not only the Driskill but President Lyndon B. Johnson. Did you know their histories overlapped intimately? It was at the Driskill that Lyndon B. Johnson went on his first date with his future wife, First Lady Claudia (Lady Bird) Taylor. I knew the Driskill had a rich history but this story both intrigued and impressed me! Ryann continued to share her LBJ knowledge and has inspired me to soon revisit the LBJ Library, also located in Austin Texas. The last time I visited I was in the middle school.
Chef Knapp introduced the menu and spoke to his goal to honor classic American cuisine and maintain the sense of refined luxury from past menus. He spoke about the hand picking linens and china to reflect this mission and confirmed what I suspected; the china was a Lenox pattern. (Speaking of history, have I told you that my first job in high school was at a luxury china and silverware store? I spent 2-3 years handling fine china, silverware, and crystals.) He also locally sources what he can and the Driskill has one of the only in-house dry-aging rooms in Austin. The fall menu features dry-aged and hand-cut steaks and other new additions. I’d love to come back and try their Pancetta and Risotto stuffed Lockhart Quail!
Two years ago I challenged myself to do something that scared me every day for the month of December. I called it Fear Factor December. The activities ranged from small and mundane, like sitting through a horror movie without covering my eyes, to more interesting feats, like floating in a sensory deprivation tank. I remember the anxiety of being alone and literally in absolute darkness and how my experience amazed me. I walked away feeling relaxed and loved how without sensory perception, I felt like I was floating in outer space. In that December, some fears were conquered (being in the pitch black) and others remained a constant companion in my life (my fear of needles). So when South Austin Foodie invited me to be her guest to a night of dining in total darkness, I was intrigued but not exactly scared.
I don’t know why I was so confident. One experience differs greatly from the other. The only commonality between my floating in a sensory deprivation tank and dining in the dark is being in total darkness. Dining in the dark brings up many small anxieties, such as, how do you determine if someone is speaking to you, trusting strangers to guide you to your table, trusting your tablemates to not spill the olive oil when they pass it to you, the anxiety of navigating a plate with a spoon without being able to see what you’re eating, and so forth!
The Blind Cafe is a traveling non-profit organization hailing from Colorado. They aim to inspire positive social change through their dining events held in complete darkness and facilitated by legally blind speakers and facilitators.
So what’s the format to one of these events?
You show up to the venue. In our case it was American Legion. Maybe you have some wine and wait to be seated. They section you off with your tablemates and together you line up, hand on each other’s shoulder, the first person being led by a blind person into the dark eating area. It’s likely that you and your tablemates have never experienced walking in the complete darkness before, so you take baby steps. Your guide takes you to your seat and you feel around for a table in front of you to get your bearings. You carefully sit. Once everyone is at your table, you can begin eating a plate that has already been set for you.
I have never eaten in the dark before. The closest I’ve gotten is eating at the movie theaters. What I love about this experience is that it sheds some light (ha!) on the things our eyes have made easy for us. Like eating. I never had to think about spoon and napkin placement. Or where the food is on the plate. I never had to worry whether my utensil even has food on it. Frustrated and inept, I defaulted to using my right hand over the spoon. Unlike blind people, we were all afforded the peace of mind that no one can see us struggling to feed ourselves.
As everyone began eating, the blind hosts and servers introduced themselves and told us when they lost their vision. One person lost his vision when he was a toddler. Others later on in their lives. The blind speakers and facilitators began to start taking quetsions. They set the scene for a candid and kind conversation by already joking about their blindness. “If you have any questions, raise your hand!” Laughter. Then a clarification, “if you have any questions, just announce your name and then ask.”
They were asked about how they make fashion choices and keep their clothes sorted. (They have a sorting system that may involve the way they cut their tags or add safety pins to their tags. Or they just let their wives dress them. Or they rely on their fashionable friends and also FaceTime like apps where they can ask for help from their friends or volunteers.) I asked them how they learn to trust people without having sight to read body language. (They learned to read tones and energies, just as we do when we speak to people on the phone.) They were asked what was the biggest hardship they carry. (Everyone agreed that it was being seen as less than, or ironically, not being seen at all! Feeling invisible.)
It was a heartwarming night full of candor and human connection. I recommend this experience. If you’re in Austin, they’re coming back in February. I also saw upcoming events in Portland, Seattle, and Boulder. At the very least, it was a reminder that part of the human condition is the desire to be seen.
After the discussions and frank conversations, we then listened to a band called Constellation Prize, their lead singer also a blind person. It was good music. And I danced in my chair like no one was watching.
Buenos Aires Café is celebrating their 10 year anniversary this month. To kick off their celebrations, co-owners and mother-daughter duo, Paola and Chef Reina invited a few of us lucky souls to Chef Reina’s beautiful home for a traditional asado. Traditionally an asado or Argentine barbecue is an all-day affair and the social event of the week.
Upon arrival, we were greeted with a gorgeous table of olives, cheeses, and delicious breads. Every piece of bread we ate was expertly baked by Paola.
Paola and Chef Reina welcomed us to their asado. They spoke of how happy they are to work and own a restaurant together, something neither of them thought they’d do. Paola shared, “I was supposed to be an architect!” To which her mom laughed and exclaimed, “And I was supposed to be an engineer!”
After some mingling and heavy snacking, Chef Reina walked us through a hands-on empanada making demo. Thank you Jennie Chen for this photo of me! It was great fun getting our hands dirty.
And then the main event! We sat down to a beautifully set table to enjoy charred meats, cooked on the “parrilla”, open fire grill, as is tradition in Argentina. Argentineans use all parts of the cow so we were tucking into blood sausages (morchilla), chorizos, sweetbreads (mollejas), and tenderloins with chimichurri sauce to dip. I brought my friend Himanshu as my guest and I can still hear him gushing with his mouth full.
This photo really captures the essence of our day. Lovely weather, Malbec that never stopped flowing, glorious amounts of meat, and merry laughs. I couldn’t ask for a better Sunday and felt so much gratitude to be sharing such a day with kind and passionate people. To my right sat Chef Reina and she regaled us with stories of how much sharing dinners with loved ones is important to her. She told me of how her family used to pick a country and each member had assigned roles. Recipes were gathered, maps were displayed, and cultures researched as they then sat down and ate and talked about what they learned during the week of preparation.
And then when I thought I couldn’t eat one more bite, alfajores, also known as magical delicate cookies that melt in your mouth were served. Sigh.
Many happy sighs happened that day. Happy 10th Anniversary, Buenos Aires Café! Thank you for including us in your celebrations.
As I mentioned recently, I serve as Social Chair on the Austin Food Bloggers Alliance’s Board of Directors, where my main role is to organize monthly happy hours at local establishments. Our last host for our happy hour was The Highball. They really pulled out all the stops for us and we were floored by both their hospitality and menu! Located in the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, Highball is a bar, restaurant, event space, and karaoke venue. I spoke to their chef, Chef Jason Donoho, and he said though The Highball shares the same kitchen space as Alamo Drafthouse, they do not have the same menu. He wishes more people knew that not only can you come to Highball for their fun events, drinks, and karaoke, you can come just for dinner as well!
Bites not pictured but worthy of mentions:
Herbed french fries, $6. I could not stop eating these fries.
Roasted Poblano Dip, Lime, cotija cheese, cucumber, baby carrots, celery, red peppers, seeded crackers, baby romaine lettuce leaves, radish; $8. Thank you Highball for that day’s vegetable servings!
The Frito Pie, Mickey’s beef & Shiner Bock chili, Fritos, cheddar cheese, cotija cheese, red onions, lime sour cream, scallions. Add a fried sunny egg or sliced avocado for $1.50 each; $7. Has a nice spicy kick!
My favorites: The french fries, Frito Pie, Fancy Deviled Eggs, Dr. Pepper ribs, fried chicken that they brine in pickle juice, and banana pudding.
I know, I shouldn’t be allowed to have that many favorites but I couldn’t narrow it down any further! I now plan on going early to my next Alamo movie and grabbing some bites at The Highball before showtime.
You put a bunch of food bloggers in a dark room and like moths, we’ll gravitate to the light. With each course, our passionate group of food writers and food photographers dutifully set up shop near the windows to take our photos. We food bloggers are a ridiculous bunch.
Antonelli’s cheese board; selection of three cheeses, smoked almonds, fig jam, seeded crackers, you can add Antonelli meats for an extra fee; $16
Fried Brussels Sprouts & Shishito Peppers; white BBQ dipping sauce with brown sugar candied bacon; $8
Fried Chicken 3.0; two boneless thighs, pickle juice-brined, black pepper & honey; $10.
Last week I had the pleasure of dining with my friend South Austin Foodie at Liberty Kitchen at a media tasting.
I’m a big fan of light. Natural light, starlight, twinkle light. I want to go back to Liberty Kitchen at night to see their pretty ceiling lights with their star motif. The words on their ceiling say, “The stars at night, are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas.” Which made me think of my friend who used to have glow in the dark stars taped to his sunroof. I imagined him taking girls out and asking if they’d like to go stargazing and when the unsuspecting hopeful lasses tentatively say yes, he would pull back the sunroof cover to reveal these illuminated green plastic stars. At least, that’s how I’d make a move with that car!
In fact, you have my permission to steal this sophisticated version: you suggest to your date that you two enjoy a night of stargazing and good food and just take them to Liberty Kitchen. Eh? You’re welcome from your date coach.
I was charmed to see Houston’s BRC (Big Red Cock) listed as a sister restaurant to Liberty Kitchen and also to learn that Liberty Kitchen hails from Houston too, my beloved childhood town. I often find myself defending Houston while living in Austin. Sure, Houston isn’t as pretty, but the food in Houston is stellar! The cocktails were not only beautiful catching that light, but also quite tasty. I was a bad blogger and didn’t write down what cocktail I had but I enjoyed my drink. I let the server choose for me.
These grilled oysters were perfect. I consumed all sorts of oysters that night. Grilled, raw, fried, I loved them all.
Ah, that fried oyster! This compechana was a beautiful start to our meal.
Look, Austin has strong queso game. My long-time favorite in town is Torchy’s but when your town is this great at queso, it’s always a good call to order queso. So get the queso we did. No regrets, y’all.
Gorilla-Style Street Fish Tacos; grilled Gulf fish, cilantro slaw, spicy crema, avocado,
grilled jalapeno, queso, drunk beans, salad, $19.99
Speaking of, I poured queso on my fish taco. We dined on a Tuesday and Liberty Kitchen does Taco Tuesdays as a special. They serve whatever fish is fresh and for us that meant drum fish.
Deviled Egg Trial; spicy-pickled juice yolk topped with 1) hot smoked salmon 2) fried oyster 3) pimento cheese & crab 4) spicy fried chicken n’ sauce with side bacon jam; $12.75
I’m that person at the party who gobbles down all the deviled eggs when other guests aren’t looking. In other words, these were up my alley, but I just realized I haven’t even told you about the bacon jam! Liberty Kitchen now officially makes my favorite bacon jam. I loved it so much, South Austin Foodie and I brought a whole jar home to split. Yes, you can buy their jam by the jar! It’s a great deal. Do it for you. Do it for your loves.
Heisenburg-er; ridiculous burger; $17/$24.
Behold the Heisenburg-er. Deviled eggs, turkey, bacon, bacon jam, avocado, jalapeños, did I already mention the bacon jam? Also what you see is the half order. HALF!
Classic Mac and Cheese, $10
I love asking people what food they gravitate to when they’re feeling blue. I alternate between Asian noodles, mashed potatoes, and mac and cheese.
For dessert we had the bread pudding and one of the cake shakes, ours was the red velvet cake with vanilla. By this point I didn’t think I could take more than one bite of each but to my delight and dismay, I could not stop eating that bread pudding.
Well there you have it. My first impression of Liberty Kitchen was a feast. And there’s still so much more to eat. The menu is exhaustive guys. Next time I’m curious about the Fried Oyster & Spam Musubi and the Shanghai Sweet & Chile Fried Whole Lobster. Because hedonism.
So next date night? Take your better half to Liberty Kitchen, where the menu is extensive, seafood is fresh, and stars are bright.
Question: What do you eat when you’re having the worst day?